Cruise Port Atlas | Aghios Nikolaos (Crete), Greece Day Trips | Attractions

Aghios Nikolaos (Crete), Greece Day Trips | Attractions

Alternate spelling: Agios Nikolaos

With limited time in port, planning is the best way to make the most of your time. Should you strike out on your own? Should you hire a local guide? Or should you book a shore excursion offered by the cruise line or an international tour company? Below we have listed the attractions and activities that many other cruisers have enjoyed. This information should help you plan.

The advantage to cruise line tours is that they are timed for your visit and give you flexibility to change your mind after your trip begins. The advantage of using a large international firm is that tours are often less expensive than cruise sponsored tours. The advantage to using a local tour company or guide is that prices can be significantly lower or you may be able to get a customized trip just to see the attractions that interest you most.

Cruise lines visiting Aghios Nikolaos: Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea

Key Attractions: Aghios Nikolaos Archaeological Museum, Lake Voulismeni, Lassithi Plateau, Kera Monastery, Windmills, Knossos Palace, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Old Town, Koules Venetian Fortress, Almiros Beach, Havania Beach, Ammoudi Beach, Istro Beaches, Elounda, Spinalonga Island, Phaistos Palace, Malia Palace, Gournia

Aghios Nikolaos Attractions

Terminal to Lake Voulismeni - 0.5 KM, 6 minute walk
Terminal to Archaeological Museum - 0.9 KM, 4 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Located on the eastern half of the island of Crete in the prefecture of Lassithi, Aghios Nikolaos is a lovely small port city with a scenic waterfront and a vibrant taverna culture. The city has an archaeological museum with Minoan and other artifacts. The most popular tourist area in the city is Lake Voulismeni, known locally as The Lake. It was once freshwater, but is now connected with the sea. There are a number of nice well-developed beaches within just few kilometers of the port.

        

   

Photo of Aghios Nikolaos by Marc Ryckaert

Lassithi Plateau

Port to Lassithi Plateau - 41 KM, 50 minutes
Port to Kera Monastery - 43 KM, 50 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The Lassithi Plateau is an unlikely tourist attraction, but the stunning scenery, rustic villages, and elegant windmills lend an atmosphere that is unique. It has an average altitude of almost 3000 feet and sits below the massive Dikti (mountains), which offer melting snow in the spring to keep the ground fertile. The area has historic significance since through the centuries Cretans have used it as a base for resistance activities against first the Venetians and later the Ottomans. During winter the plateau is cold and often snow-covered. On the northern perimeter of the Plateau is the small and serene Kera Monastery.

           

   

Photo of Lassithi Plateau by Philthemancunian

Knossos Palace

Port to Knossos Palace - 67 KM, 1 hour 15 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The most impressive monument of the Minoan civilization, the Palace at Knossos was the site of an important cultural center from the 19th to 16th centuries BCE. This is one of the most popular ruin sites in Europe and has undergone significant restoration over the last century. What is most striking about the Palace is the uniqueness of the structure and the art. Though we call the building a palace it is not clear that it was a royal residence. It contains a massive and complex building with over 1000 connected rooms. The art of Knossos, primarily frescoes in striking colors, portrays a ceremonial culture with a love of leisure and beauty. There is clear Egyptian influence, but the style is uniquely Minoan. The archaeological record of Crete indicates that the Minoans were not involved in significant wars during their golden era. Sometime around 1400 BCE the culture collapsed, most likely as a result of massive earthquakes and the aftermath of the eruption of the Thiran volcano. What is left is the first significant advance civilization in the Mediterranean.

     

   

Photo of Knossos Palace by Lapplaender

Heraklion Attractions

Port to Heraklion - 64 KM, 1 hour 15 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The Lassithi Plateau is an unlikely tourist attraction, but the stunning scenery, rustic villages, and elegant windmills lend an atmosphere that is unique. It has an average altitude of almost 3000 feet and sits below the massive Dikti (mountains), which offer melting snow in the spring to keep the ground fertile. The area has historic significance since through the centuries Cretans have used it as a base for resistance activities against first the Venetians and later the Ottomans. During winter the plateau is cold and often snow-covered. On the northern perimeter of the Plateau is the small and serene Kera Monastery.

           

   

Photo of the Koules Fortress by Nernyo Nyannpoulo

Aghios Nikolaos Beaches

Port to Istro - 14 KM, 20 minutes
Aghios Nikolaus Beaches are within 4 KM of Port area
Link to Full-Page Google Map

There are a number of small, sandy beaches nestled in the coves and bays in and near Aghios Nikolaos to the north and south. Almiros Beach is the most popular with very shallow water perfect for small children. On the north side of town are Havania Beach and Ammoudi Beach, which is inside a protected cove. The beaches at Istro tend to be a bit less crowded but also offer nice facilities. The beaches on the southern coast of Crete are less developed and less crowded.

        

   

Elounda and Spinalonga Island

Port to Elounda and Spinalonga Island - 10 KM, 15 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The resort area around Elounda is the most luxurious on Crete and attracts the rich, famous, and infamous. Recent visitors have included Gaddafi of Libya, the Saudi royal family, and nearly every summer was the vacation spot for 1990s Greek Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou. One reason for its popularity is its protected location across from the large island commonly known as Spinalonga. The island was the location of the last leper colony (until 1957) and important Venetian fortress. Shopping, eating, people watching and island tours are the most popular activities in this Cretan hotspot.

           

   

Photo of Venetian Fortress on Spinalonga

Other Minoan Archaeological Sites

Port to Gournia - 23 KM, 30 minutes
Port to Malia Palace - 38 KM, 30 minutes
Port to Phaistos Palace - 120 KM, 2 hours 10 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Knossos is not the only "palace" on Crete. The second largest, the Phaistos (sometimes spelled Phaestos) Palace, is also accessible from Heraklion and is close to the southern shore of the island. It was built originally around 2000 BCE, destroyed and quickly rebuilt around 1700 BCE. Nearby there are several other Minoan sites including the somewhat newer palace at Agia Triada. The third largest palace is between Heraklion and Aghios Nikolaos, near the town of Malia for which it is named. It was built in the early 2nd millennium BCE and then destroyed and rebuilt around 1700 BCE. It is likely that all these palaces were victims of a massive earthquake. Gournia is another site that is southeast of Aghios Nikolaos which was obviously a less luxurious setting than the other "palaces," but which is popular among those who visit there. Where in Knossos huge numbers of visitors are the norm, at Gournia you can have a more serene experience and get more of a feeling for what it was like when the Minoans lived there.

     

   

Photo of Phaistos Palace by Olaf Tausch

Interests Key:

Art Architecture Beach Children Wild Animals Local Cuisine Flora Gardens-Parks Geology

Diving UNESCO Views Wine Dance Music Shopping History Hiking

Walking & Wheelchair Accessibility:

No Walking Easy Walking Normal Walking Difficult Walking Accessible Limited Not Accessible